Prayer calls in Central Switzerland

«Betruf»  (prayer call) is a traditional shepherds’ and herders’ prayer that is spoken and sung during the summer grazing period on many alpine meadows in Central Switzerland. At the end of a long working day, a herdsman – usually the head shepherd – seeks a suitable, preferably elevated location, often one adorned with a wooden cross. By cupping his hands around his mouth or using a wooden milk funnel, he makes a noise that can be heard far and wide, sometimes as far away as the valley floor. The caller’s recitation functions as a protective ritual. In High German tinged with elements of Swiss dialect, he asks God, Mary, Jesus, the Holy Ghost and various saints to protect all living creatures on the mountain pastures against harm, in particular the dangers of the night. Storms, wolves, robbers or ghosts are often named as threats. Within the boundaries of modern Switzerland, the earliest evidence of this practice, once known as the 'Ave-Mariarüeffen', originated in the 16th century from the alpine meadows of the mountain Pilatus. Its origins probably date back to the late middle ages, however. From a musical history perspective, comparisons can be drawn with litany chants and biblical recitations. The prayer call can be interpreted as a popularised Gregorian chant that has continued to develop in the mountainous Catholic regions over many centuries and is still passed on orally amongst shepherds and herdsman.


Category

Social practices


Canton


Detailed description

Connected traditions

Publications

Brigitte Bachmann-Geiser: Der Betruf in den Schweizer Alpen. In: Histoire des Alpes – Storia della Alpi – Geschichte der Alpen, Band 11. Mendrisio, 2006, p. 27–36

Christof Hirtler: «Ich bin nicht heilig». In: Urner Zeitung, 8. Juli 2017, p. 19

Brigitte Bachmann-Geiser (Ed.): Bättruef – Alpsegen. Swiss Alpine Prayer. Oberhofen am Thunersee, 2006 (Compact Disc)

Max Peter Baumann: Zur Bedeutung des Betrufes in Uri. In: Festschrift Felix Hoerburger. Regensburg, 1977

Bernhard Bremberger: Der Betruf auf dem Urnerboden im Umfeld von Geschichte, Inhalt und Funktion. In: Jahrbuch für Volksliedforschung 29. Berlin, 1984, p. 65-96

Dokumentation zum Betruf mit unpublizierten Materialien im Haus der Volksmusik in Altdorf

Hans Marti: Der Betruf auf den Entlebucher Alpen. In: Luzerner Hauskalender 184. Luzern, 1985, p. 53-60

Bruno Moll: Alpsegen. Kinofilm, Schweizerdeutsch mit deutschen und französischen Untertiteln. Zürich, 2012

Martin Staehelin: Bemerkungen zum sogenannten Alpsegen: Wesen und historische Tiefe. In: Schweizerisches Archiv für Volkskunde 78. Basel, 1982, p. 1-35

August Wirz: Der Betruf in den Schweizer Alpen. Dissertation (maschinengeschrieben, n. p.). Freiburg im Uechtland, 1943

Tonisep Wyss-Meier: Der Betruf im deutschsprachigen und rätoromanischen Raum. Sammlung von Texten und Erläuterungen. Appenzell, 2007

Links


Swiss National Sound Archives

Keywords

Summer

https://www.lebendige-traditionen.ch/content/tradition/en/home/traditions/prayer-calls-in-central-switzerland.html